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Odunde Dance Troop Visits

The African dance and drumming group, Odunde365, visited Waldron for a second year at our Community Gathering this week. Students and faculty alike took to the gym floor and showed their skills in learning dance moves and drumming. It was an amazing performance!  Here are some pictures from the event:

Odunde Dancing1

Odunde Dancing 2


See more on our Facebook page including videos of our teachers' drum solos!


Celebrating Chinese New Year at WMA

Traditions are a rich part of Waldron Mercy's history. Some traditions date back to the late 1920's, some to the time of the merger, and more recently, traditions have been introduced by new faculty to celebrate customs of diverse cultures. 

I remember reviewing Sam Sheng's (fourth grade science and social studies teacher) resume. He was teaching in California and was moving to Philadelphia. There was an activity listed on his resume that intrigued me...Lion Dancing! During his interview we talked about this passion. Lucky for Waldron, we hired him and he introduced our students to the Lion Dance!

The Lion Dance is performed to celebrate the Chinese New Year. The traditional Lion Dance originates from the legend of the monster Nian. The Lion Dance is performed to chase away evil spirits and monsters. Nian was afraid of loud, fire cracker-like noises. The traditional dance is performed with cymbals and drums to mimic those loud noises. The dance of the lion is performed by two people in the costume. The head of the lion has mirrors to reflect back the image of the monster and to ward off evil spirits. The lion meets the "laughing Buddha" who teases the animal and makes it move around. As the lion "moves through the streets" it feeds on green vegetables and a red packet hung from a pole. The lion consumes the food and spits it back out, symbolizing the spread of prosperity and good fortune.

For the past several years Mr. Sheng and his wife, Corine, have performed the Lion Dance to celebrate the Chinese New Year with us. Both Sheng children also perform in their own lion costume. This year, Mrs. Sheng played the drum. Mr. Sheng and Michael Borton (WMA musical director) donned the lion costume. Ms. Baldwin and Ms. Betlejeski (WMA music teachers) played the cymbals and Corine Sheng handled the big drum. The tradition has expanded among the participants and it is a tradition that is most enjoyed by the students!

Enjoy the pictures of the Lion Dance! Happy New Year...the Year of the Monkey!





Remembering a Member of our Waldron Mercy Family

The Feast of St. Blaise is on February 3. He is the patron saint for protection against injuries or illnesses of the throat. When I first started teaching at Waldron Mercy in 1990, I met a remarkable woman, Mrs. Mary Gilligan, who would visit my classroom to have her throat blessed as we were bestowing the blessing of St. Blaise on the students. Saint Blaise was important to her and she was faithful to him. Around this time every year, I fondly remember Mary. She began teaching at Merion Mercy Academy in the late 1960’s when it was a K-12 school. Mary joined the staff at Waldron when the two schools merged in 1987. I had always heard that Mary Gilligan was a creative, amazing, dedicated teacher, but I never had the fortune to teach with her.  When I moved into my fourth grade classroom, her presence was there among the books which bared her name inside the front covers. That’s the closest that I experienced her teaching, and I had hoped that her passion and talent would rub off on me. Mary was a legend! She loved mercy education! When I met her, Mary had retired from the classroom, but remained in the school helping out in every way possible. You would see her running the spiritwear store and counting the pretzel money daily. She could run circles around anyone in the building-always wearing a tailored skirt and high heels! Mary would beam when she spoke of her daughter, Mary Ellen and her son-in-law, Preston. The best day was when Mary told me that she was going to be a grandmother. She was ecstatic! Her grandson was the sparkle in her eye. Mary was active right up until her passing on April 18, 1996. Mary was a faith-filled woman. When she was coming near her end in the hospital, I remember the stream of faculty who visited and prayed by her bedside. It was probably one of the first times I really got to know Mary Ellen and Preston outside of Mary’s stories. Well, the mercy family has strength in its roots and its spirit is alive in each of its members. Mary’s grandson and my oldest son began Montessori together not too long after Mary’s passing. They remain friends today as do I with Mary Ellen and Preston—a beautiful family…all connected in mercy. God bless you, Mary Gilligan!

Sportsmanship. Pass it on.

I’d like to share an article with you that a friend passed on to me. In no way am I criticizing the fans who come and support our athletic teams. This article just made me stop and think again about the impact that the words and actions of adults have on our students. We are role models in every walk of life. The respect that we show to one another, although we are all less than perfect, sets a wonderful example for our students, and in the case of this article, to our student athletes.  We ask our students to “play fair, respect coaches, referees, teammates and opponents and show grace in victory and defeat”. I share this article and one perspective on showing respect for our referees. Enjoy!

"Letter to the Editor: Adult Leaders Need to Set Example for Youths" - Delaware County Daily Times

Jubilee Year of Mercy - December 8, 2015 to November 20, 2016

December 8, 2015 – November 20, 2016

In April Pope Francis announced that there would be an extraordinary Jubilee Year to give Catholics the opportunity to reflect on God’s Mercy to all people.

The Jubilee Year of Mercy, or the Holy Year of Mercy will open on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, December 8, 2015 and close on the Feast of Christ the King, November 20, 2016.

What is a Holy Year and why now?
Holy years are usually celebrated by the Church every 25 or 50 years. Popes can call an extraordinary Jubilee year when they want to emphasize something special.  Pope Francis believes that the Catholic Church would grow holier if we focus on the virtue of Mercy and become people who continually reflect Mercy toward ourselves and others.

The Feast of the Immaculate Conception has been chosen as the opening date for the Holy Year because this Feast reminds us of God’s act of mercy in choosing Mary to bear His Son who would bring forgiveness to us all.

The Holy Year of Mercy will officially begin when Pope Francis opens the Holy Door at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.  The door is covered in bronze panels, each one will show a scriptural theme related to forgiveness, the focus of all Holy Years.  The door is open only during Jubilee years.
During this year, thousands of people from all over the world will go to Rome to have the opportunity to go through the Holy Door as a sign that they are seeking God’s forgiveness and mercy.

There are other basilicas or cathedrals that have holy doors that will open to also welcome pilgrims who may not have the opportunity to travel to Rome.

The Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul on the Parkway in Philadelphia will be our local Church with a holy door.  You may want to visit this Church with your parents or class.  

“One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world.”

I would like to shift the focus of the blog this week to a member of our current Waldron family, Charline Webber, a student in fifth grade. Charline went to see the movie, "He Named Me Malala," and was so moved by the documentary that she felt the need to do something. Charline presented her reflections to our faculty, students and parents at Community Gathering. I would like to share a piece of her presentation. We teach our students the need to connect with those in need from a very young age so that “giving back” becomes a part of who they are. “Giving back” can be in knowledge, time and treasure. Charline has invited all of us to support The Malala Fund. 

The Malala Fund Fundraising Letter  
by Charline Webber

“One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world.”
—Malala Yousafzai

Dear Family and Friends,
Everyone has a right to education, whether you are a boy or a girl, whether you are rich or poor. Malala shows us how important going to school is.

Malala is a girl who lived in Pakistan. She loves going to school and learning. As a little girl she would watch her father teach his students at his own school. She used to pretend to give lectures to the empty classroom and later on, became a very good student. She and her family loved their life and their home. Then a group of men called the Taliban came to her town.     

The Taliban is a group who distort religion to control people. They do  very bad things to people and the places they go. They bomb schools and houses, and even kill people who don’t agree with them. Because Malala and her father spoke out against the Taliban, they wanted to harm her and her family. One day, Malala was on the bus on the way home from school when a masked Taliban shot her.

Her life changed forever. She went to a hospital in England to get better and so her whole family moved to England. They can't go back to Pakistan because the Taliban want to kill her.

Malala took this bad experience and changed it into something positive. She became an advocate for girls education around the world. She even won the Nobel Peace Prize for her work.

Malala’s father says, “People without education do not question or challenge.” When you don’t have an education, you don’t have any choices. Malala is an important advocate for every girl and woman. She is my role model because she loves education and wants everyone to have the opportunity to get an education. Lots of people don’t get an education because they don’t have enough money or they are deprived of that right.

We can help girls around the world by helping Malala’s organization. I have started fundraising to help girls get an education through the Malala Fund. Here is the link to my fundraising page.

Transformation into a School...

The Sisters began educating children in January 1885 when a caretaker of a nearby estate approached the Sisters and asked if they could teach his 14-year-old daughter. A week later, five more children joined, and when school ended in June of that same year, 40 students were enrolled. Sister Mary de Mercede called it the Intermediate School which was later known as the Village School. In 1885, Mother Patricia Waldron was awarded a portion of Francis A. Drexel’s estate. With this money she paid off the mortgage on the Merion property and bought additional land on an adjoining property. The owner of this property was David W. Morgan. The Morgan estate was a 13-room stone homestead which served as St. Anne’s Convent and a farmhouse that served as the Village School. Mother M. Gertrude Dowling opened an academy for young ladies and young boys under the age of twelve in the convent. She called the school Mater Misericordiae.

Mother M. Patricia Joseph Waldron, Founder and Superior of the Philadelphia Sisters of Mercy 1861-1916 by Sister Henrietta Connelly, R.S.M.



Happy Mercy Day!

In 1843, two years after the death of Catherine McAuley, Mother Frances Warde established the first of many Mercy foundations in the United States in Pittsburgh, Pa. In 1861, Mother Warde sent 10 sisters to Philadelphia. Mother Patricia Waldron and nine other sisters arrived at Assumption B.V.M. parish at 11th and Spring Garden Streets to staff a parish school. Shortly after arriving, the sisters began teaching and visiting the sick in homes, hospitals and prisons. In 1863, Mother Patricia Waldron signed a lease for a house at Broad Street and Columbia Avenue. The Merion chapter of the history of the Sisters of Mercy began in 1884, when Mother Patricia Waldron purchased a small house on Montgomery Avenue in Merion Station. This home was to be a place for the sisters to rest and recuperate from illness. Within a few days after their arrival, the sisters began to teach neighborhood children. This “school," a precursor to Waldron Academy, was quickly established.

"We Are a Family of Mercy"

Our theme for this school year is “We are a Family in Mercy.” The students will be creating family pages for a classroom photo album. Each family page will be displayed in the prayer space of the classroom, and each family will be prayed for weekly. I thought that I would use my blog entries to create a photo album for Waldron Mercy. The first page highlights Catherine McAuley, foundress of the Sisters of Mercy. Our roots go back to Dublin, Ireland, where Catherine was born in 1778. Her father took in poor children in Dublin on the weekends to teach them about their Catholic faith. He died when Catherine was very young, but she held his love for the poor and his faith close to her heart. Catherine’s mother taught her to be independent and hospitable to all. After her mother’s premature death, Catherine went to live with the Callaghans for whom she cared for 20 years. She inherited a large fortune upon their deaths. Catherine used the money to build the House of Mercy, a home for working girls and orphans and a school for the poor. Other women joined her in caring for the poor. In 1831, she founded the Sisters of Mercy, the first religious community to minister to people in their homes, hospitals and prisons. Catherine’s great love for God and desire to live as a follower of Jesus motivated her to care for the poor and do the work of mercy. At the time of Catherine’s death in 1841, there were 14 Mercy foundations in Ireland and England. The Sisters of Mercy were spreading their roots to other parts of the world, including the Americas.

Grade 4 Guest Bloggers Talk about their Recyclable Greenhouses

The students in fourth grade worked on a cooperative project focusing on the theme of the environment.  Groups of three worked together to research, plan and build a greenhouse that would keep a plant alive for two weeks. They needed to keep in mind factors such as weather, ventilation, condensation, and the limits of working with recycled materials. They designed and built their greenhouses over a period of two days.  The recycled greenhouses are outside the Dixon Gym by carline.  I’ll be sharing some of the student blogs with you so that you can share in their progress.

The students were asked to reflect on the following questions after day 1:  Describe your experience working with your small group to construct a miniature greenhouse. What did your group accomplish today? What problems did you encounter and how did you solve them?

Some of their responses are shared below:
“Today my group has accomplished making our first blueprint. We have researched the weather for the next two weeks so we know how to prepare our greenhouse. We have a foundation that we came up with. One problem we have faced is that we are having a hard time coming up with measurements and picturing our design. One thing we did today that was helpful was asking Ms. Winters to help us learn more about our rosemary plants.”—Luke

wma grade 4 stem

“My partners and I worked well together. Caroline was in charge of drawing the blueprints, I was in charge of doing the wiki, and Ella was in charge of supplies. One problem we faced was when we saw that the wooden dowels wouldn’t stay up on their own and so we taped them to the floor of our greenhouse. Another problem was that the water bottles that stood on top of the wooden dowels kept falling over, so we helped each other tape them securely to the dowels.”—Lindsay

wma grade 4 stem“I have Patrick and Colin as my partners and today we accomplished some major work: we got our plan approved and started to build. With our design, we used water bottles as our four corners and bubble wrap on top of the greenhouse for shade for the plant. Empty water bottles didn’t work because we realized that wind could blow the whole thing over, so we filled each of the four water bottles 1/4 of the way up to help keep the greenhouse’s structure…and our idea worked. Our greenhouse has bubble wrap for the sides and roof, and I think we are going to make a bubble wrap floor tomorrow. We have the four water bottles and we are going to add two more tomorrow (I just do not know where we are going to add them yet). Our water bottles have 23 cm. wooden dowels sticking down through the cap. (Why do we have the wooden dowels, you may ask? Well, that’s because we stuck them into the bubble wrap to help it stay on top.) I am happy with the partners I got and I want to do more tomorrow.”—Jack

Teaching Tough Topics - How to Handle in the Classroom

On Wednesday, I attended a workshop with a few Waldron colleagues and a member of our Diversity Committee of the Board on “Teaching Tough Topics:  Racially-Charged Current Events and their Relevance in the Classroom.” This program was sponsored by the Multicultural Resource Center. Guest speakers were Dr. Laura Roy and Dr. H. Bernard Hall. I would like to share the notes from their presentation with you. The afternoon workshop had three goals:  setting the ground rules for teaching tough or controversial topics in the classroom, exploring three elements of successful educators as a rationale for engaging in tough topics, and providing a curricular model for teaching tough topics.
The ground rules are established with the students in the classroom. They offered the model called “R.O.P.E.S.” which calls for respect and risk-taking, oops and ouch moments (tough topics can bring on strong emotions), patience/persistence/problem solving, empathy, and safety (a product of developing relationships that take time to cultivate).
Three elements of a successful educator include academic achievement, cultural competence, and critical consciousness. Teachers must have high academic expectations for students and they must believe that all of their students are capable of achieving those expectations. Teachers must also have an understanding of different cultures and the ability to interact effectively with people from different cultures and socio-economic backgrounds. Educators must also have a commitment to action.
The last part of the presentation provided a theme-based model for English and History teachers to show how incorporating culturally sensitive content fosters inquiry and cross-cultural understandings.

Tackling Youth Risk in the Digital Universe - Get Involved!

On Wednesday, February 4, Deborah McCoy, president of Educational Development Services, presented, “Tackling Youth Risk in the Digital Universe” to our parents at the Parent Associations’ Grab-N-Go and also to our students in grades 4 to 8. Her PowerPoint presentation is available here.

I just wanted to pass on some interesting information that she shared with the parents in the morning. Students send, on average, 4,200 texts per month. When asked, kids feel that they are “entitled” to private communication and freedom of speech. Ms. McCoy addressed the “privacy” issue. Social networking sites such as Facebook, Instagram and Snap Chat are not private. When you set up an account with Facebook or Instagram (owned by FB) you are asked to sign a letter of agreement recognizing that FB owns everything that you post on your account. Instagram instituted the letter of agreement which also states that they have the right to your content and may also redistribute it to others. Snap Chat sends out videos or pictures which, after a designated time, “disappear.” Snap Chat admitted to storing everything in the Cloud, so, again, no privacy. These are all public sites.

The rise of students on social media opens the door to new problems with bullying. A recent study indicated that kids admitted to bullying frequently through texting and social networking sites. Kids are now facing criminal conduct with their increased digital activity. Some are being charged with electronic harassment, fraudulent sites, threatening speech, invasion of privacy, defamatory speech, and sexting.

College Admissions and Human Resources departments are routinely checking Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, to name a few sites. They want to see decent students who have goals, volunteer, keep a positive image, etc. Ms. McCoy couldn’t emphasize enough the role of parents in directing their children through the digital world. The students are not always making positive choices which may have life altering consequences. Ms. McCoy implored parents to be involved, read texts and social networking posts, and to monitor digital activity. So, be involved!

Happy Foundation Day to the Sisters of Mercy!

On December 12, 1831, Catherine McAuley, Mary Ann Doyle and Elizabeth Harley professed their first vows as the Sisters of Mercy in the Presentation Convent of Georges Hill, Dublin. On that day Archbishop Daniel Murray formally blessed the first Convent of Mercy at the House of Mercy in Baggot Street. He appointed Catherine as superior. Catherine and her helpers felt called to serve the needs of the time. For this reason their ministry served to instruct poor, sick and uneducated, especially women. The sisters were known as the “walking nuns” because they ministered to the poor out in the community which was unusual for the time. Most other sisters stayed within their convents. By Catherine's death in 1841, there were ten houses of Mercy in Ireland. The Institute spread to other continents, each foundation serving the needs of the local community. The instruction of poor girls broadened to include the education of boys and of adults. The establishment of schools and nursing education became a focus of the Mercy Sisters. Visitation of the sick widened into care of the sick in hospitals and homes.

Opening the Door to Conversation

Last Friday afternoon, Theresa Gannon, director, Middle School, Margie Winters, director, Religious Education, and I had the opportunity to attend the Gesu School’s 17th Annual Symposium, which focused on the journey through an independent school. The keynote speaker was Andre Robert Lee, director and producer of the film, "The Prep School Negro." The film is the story of Mr. Lee’s journey back in time revisiting his adolescence. Mr. Lee and his sister grew up in the ghettos of Philadelphia. At the age of 14, Mr. Lee was given what his family believed to be a “golden ticket” to attend the most prestigious, private, independent school in Philadelphia. The film revisits Mr. Lee’s internal struggles that he faced as a person of color in a primarily white world, the guilt that he felt as he gained access to a world of privilege and knowledge, and the turmoil that he felt as he left his family and community behind. In making this documentary, he visited his alma mater and spoke with current students of color, he was surprised to see what he refers to as the “truth about who really pays the consequences for yesterday’s accelerated desegregation and today’s racial naiveté.” This powerful film and discussion allows us to consider our students of diverse backgrounds (race, socio-economic, religious, etc.) in a renewed light. It opens up the door for conversation around how we support our students and our families’ social and emotional needs. Personally, I think this is an area for growth for all of us at school. We need to continue these conversations.

Holiday Traditions...

This is the time of year where we start getting into the “holiday season.” For many, the holidays are rich in tradition. The Stetser holidays begin with Halloween. There is a yearly ritual of routines that I must admit, I sometimes take for granted. I was reminded this year just how important those family traditions can be and how much of an impact they have on even the youngest family members.
Halloween starts with pumpkin patch weekend at Aunt Diane and Uncle Denny’s house. With Peter off at college and Andrew busy with his school show, Jay anxiously packed up his things and happily went on his own. Pumpkin patch weekend is highlighted by a trip to the pumpkin patch to pick out a perfect pumpkin for carving. Jay picked his own and then selected two for his brothers. Jay and Aunt Diane drove to the cemetery to place a small pumpkin on Jay’s cousin, Michael’s grave. This weekend is so important to our family. It is about sharing memories and spending time having lots of fun with loved ones.
The week of Halloween marks the traditional carving of the perfectly picked pumpkins from pumpkin patch weekend. Jay was a bit sad about how he would get his pumpkin carved. You see, his big brother, Peter, has helped him every year. I offered, but somehow Mom’s artistic abilities are not quite as good as Peter’s! Oh, what would we do? After all, it is tradition to carve the pumpkin in the days leading up to Halloween. Well, I received a text from Peter and he asked if I would I pick him up at the train. He was coming home to carve Jay’s pumpkin. “It's tradition,” said Peter. We spent Thursday night watching Peter stencil and carve a perfect “Pikachu” into Jay’s pumpkin. The kitchen smelled of pumpkin “guts” and warm pumpkin bread baking in the oven. Even our puppy, Mercy, joined in the fun. Peter was probably up until after midnight finishing homework, and my kitchen could have used a little extra scrubbing, but Jay was fast asleep with a smile on his face. So, our holiday season has officially started. Our traditions continue and many more happy memories have been tucked away. I can’t help but think of the book I shared last week. It is the simple joys of childhood that are so important. As my boys grow up so quickly before my eyes, I find myself clinging to those “little things” that mean so much!

Don't Forget The Joys of Childhood!

I have been reading the book, Their Name is Today:  Reclaiming Childhood in a Hostile World, by Johann Christoph Arnold. It was recommended to me by a teacher at WMA who has been educating children for over 50 years. I want to share with you a few quotes from the book.
“In the midst of our complex adult lives, we must make time to take in the lessons that only children can teach. Children demand honesty and simplicity. They expect words to line up with deeds…They look at everything with new eyes, and point out to us the incredible beauty of the world around us.”
I thought about this quote from the author twice in the past week when reflecting on two encounters with students. The other morning I had the pleasure of meeting one of our kindergarten students in the Front Lobby. He had his hand up to his mouth and I noticed that there was a small trickle of blood. Behind tears and great joy he bursted out, “I lost my first tooth!” I took him into the Nurse’s Office, helped him clean out his mouth, and tucked his precious gem in the tooth fairy box. Then I held the mirror in front of him so that he could see his new “toothless look.” When he shared his most adorable “toothless” smile, I am not sure that I could ever capture that joy in words. It was something that you had to experience with him at that time. It just reminded me of the simple joys that excite children and keep them energized throughout the day.
And just the other day after dismissal, I was greeted by another kindergarten student with a smile from ear to ear running down the hall straight towards me! Into my arms he leapt! There is no better end to the day than being hugged by a student.
So, I do think about the complexity of our lives, and I am thankful that our students remind us that children need to be children.

Boosting Brain Power

I have several subscriptions to educational magazines and online newsletters which I enjoy reading in those spare minutes. One that I enjoy is eSchool News, a daily newsletter focuses on technology and innovation. There was an article in the October 1, 2014, issue by Laura Devaney. She wrote about ways in which teachers could boost brain power in their classrooms. They are strategies that teachers use already, but I thought I would pass them along to you. One way to boost brain power is by singing. Singing increases oxygen. This increase helps children remember information, as well as helps with linking rhythm to patterns. A second way is to create an environment/classroom that is a safe place. Children should feel safe. If they don’t, they can’t learn. Third, we should teach children calming strategies. According to Devaney, research shows that kids carry more stress than adults. We should take the time to teach them deep-breathing strategies. Less stress will help children increase their learning potential and reduce conflicts. A fourth way to boost brain power is to keep it simple. We tend to overstimulate the brain. We need to give the brain a rest and allow time to think and process information. Fifth, break down lessons or activities into shorter chunks of time. A child’s attention span is one minute for every year old multiplied by three! The sixth strategy is one I hear all the time in the halls and classrooms—laughter! Laughing makes you feel good which increases endorphins which help the brain learn. The last strategy for boosting brain power is repetition. Repetition will help strengthen neural connections and help cement learning. Now I know why my dad had to repeat things to me! I can’t wait to tell my children that I am not nagging them when I am repetitive; rather, I am simply “cementing their learning”!

Our Eighth Grade Stories of Mercy

Below is an excerpt from my Commencement speech for our graduating Class of 2014. In keeping with our theme, Mercy:  Who Will Tell the Story?, our eighth grade students were asked to write their own stories of mercy. I simply collected their ideas and put them together. Their reflections are a true testament of living our mission of mercy every day at WMA.
“Mercy is compassion and forgiveness shown toward others. It’s following in the footsteps of God. Mercy is being genuinely kind even when it is tough to show kindness. Mercy is being tolerant and just. It is about treating everyone equally. It means looking at others and not making judgments. God has helped you to open your eyes and see the needs of others. You can’t tell what people are going through or how they are feeling just by looking at them. God has helped you to open your eyes to the world. Mercy is showing everyone the same respect. The world would be a more merciful place if we asked ourselves two simple questions every day—What if I were in their shoes? How would I feel?
You believe that everyone is born with a sense of mercy but it needs to be cultivated and cared for in order to grow in mercy. Sometimes being merciful comes naturally and sometimes it takes great effort. It doesn’t have to be huge to be an act of mercy. Mercy can be shown in the small things…simple conversations, small acts, a smile when someone is having a bad day, or doing something selfless every day. Merciful acts are normal acts. If you look at mercy moment by moment, the small changes will eventually amount to so much more. Doing the littlest of things makes a huge impact.
You also believe that everyone should both experience mercy and witness mercy. You recognize that you may not be merciful 100% of the time. But in doing things from the heart you are ultimately more connected to God. What we do to others we do to God.
Mercy has given you a deeper understanding of people. It has made you change the way you interact with people and has been your guide when making decisions. Mercy has led you to think about others before yourself. Mercy is Waldron’s backbone. Mercy is our middle name; it is not just the center of our name but central to our mission. “

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

May 5, Cinco de Mayo, is a festive holiday celebrated with parades and festivals that include music, dancing and food. For the Stetser family, May 5 is a celebration of life, the life of our nephew/cousin, Michael David Senk. This May 5, marks the 10th anniversary of Michael’s death. He was twelve years old when he died. His life was difficult, marked with many trips and long stays at CHOP. When he was four, he fell into a coma and awoke weeks later without the use of his legs. This brought more struggles for him. Good thing he was stubborn because there were no obstacles that he could not overcome! He played with his “brothers,” my two older sons, Peter and Andrew. They played baseball and video games. My two boys had trouble keeping up with him. Michael loved to play sled hockey. He was on the team, Wings of Steel. Our family proudly cheered on the para-Olympic sled hockey team at this year’s Olympics because we knew it was dear to Michael’s heart.

Despite the anguish that his death brought to our lives, Michael is always a part of everything we do. My boys still have sleepovers at Aunt Diane’s house. They spend a weekend in December making  gingerbread houses with their aunt. They also visit Michael’s grave and decorate it for Christmas. We have a special picture of Michael in our house which we decorate for every holiday. Diane signs every card for every occasion, “Hugs and Kisses from heaven, Love, Michael,” under which is always a purple (his favorite color) angel stamp. Diane is also present for every major life event for the boys, including Jay’s upcoming Confirmation. She is Jay’s sponsor, and he proudly took Michael as his Confirmation name. My sister-in-law has remarkable strength! She continues to remind us that we have our very own guardian angel looking over us—and who doesn’t need one of those! From the day of his death, Diane made us promise that we would celebrate the day by doing something fun to honor Michael’s joy for life. So, for his 10th anniversary, I would like to tell Diane that my extended family of Mercy has joined our family and has taken the time out of their very busy schedules to do something fun! Happy Cinco de Mayo and Happy Life!

Mercy...A New Beginning!

Almost three years ago, our dog, Cookie, died. She was a wonderful member of the Stetser household. We rescued her from the SPCA. I distinctly remember coming home from an October Open House at WMA and walking up the path to my house staring at a scrawny dog sitting on the other side of my door shaking uncontrollably. Well, it was “love at first pet”. We nurtured her back to good health and were lucky to have 14 years of wonderful memories.

The last day we brought Cookie to our vet was one of the worst days of our lives. My two older sons, and my husband and I surrounded her with love and held her until she took her last breath. I knew that I could never withstand the anguish of that experience ever again, so numerous times when the kids asked for another dog the answer was always no.

For the past couple of years I have been intrigued by “Lucy.” She often rides to WMA, waiting to pick up her family. A few times, she barked, so I ventured out to pet her—very quickly I made a new friend! More importantly, I realized how much I missed having a dog in my life. So, I thank the Mullens, especially Lucy, for convincing me that it was time for a furry friend for the Stetsers.

We drove up to Hillsdale, N.Y., on April 12, to pick up our nine-week-old standard poodle puppy. We brainstormed a list of names worthy of a standard poodle—Fifi, Coco, KiKi, etc. My kids made faces. My husband said, “There is only one name that really fits this family.” We looked at him and his reply was “Mercy!” How true! Mercy seems to be the bond that has tied me and my family together for our lifetime. You might think we’re crazy…just crazy in love with our Mercy! Our hope is to train Mercy to be a therapy dog. We want to bring her down to visit the patients in CHOP. This will take at least a year of training. We didn’t need Mercy to realize that service is a “way of living” not a “thing you do” because we had already learned that through the mercy we have experienced through being a member of this wonderful community that we call family, Waldron Mercy!


Join Me in Easter Prayer

On Easter Sunday, many Sisters of Mercy and Mercy Associates will be joining in prayer as they pray from the Morning and Evening Prayer Book of the Sisters of Mercy. I invite you to share in the closing prayer for the day:

Risen Savior, we rejoice in your rising. All creation is redeemed through your saving love. Mary sought you and found you in the midst of her sorrow. Your presence filled her with a joy that had to be shared. You sent her to announce the news of your resurrection from the dead. Give us a love that sees you risen among us and sends us forth as bearers of the Good News. We ask this in faith. Amen.

Bless our God who saves. Alleluia!

Bless our Savior who is risen from the dead. Alleluia!

Bless the Spirit who gives us the power to cry out:  Alleluia! Alleluia! Blessed be our God!


Connecting literature and math!

Parents often ask me for ways to enrich their children outside of the classroom. Visiting places and helping them make personal connections to their learning is always a great way to enrich their experiences. Since we don’t always have time for a trip, literature is always a wonderful way to make connections to what children learn inside the classroom. I try to put personal time aside each week for professional reading. I came across this list of books in The Marshall Memo that connected literature and math. I pass the list along to you and hope that you and your children enjoy a good nighttime read!

  • The Grapes of Math (Tang, 2004) and The Important Book (Brown, 1999) to teach number properties;
  • A Giraffe to France (Hillard, 2000) for measurement and writing and solving equations;
  • The Missing Piece (Silverstein, 2006) for missing-angle measures and sectors of a circle;
  • How I Became a Pirate (Long, 2003) to assess students’ prior knowledge on the coordinate plane;
  • Sir Cumference and the Dragon of Pi (Neuschwander, 1999) for circumference and pi;
  • Skippyjon Jones Lost in Spice (Schachner, 2005) for combinations and permutations;
  • Wrappers Wanted: A Mathematical Adventure in Surface Area (Brucke, 2009) for surface area;
  • Chasing Vermeer (Balliett, 2005) to introduce manipulatives such as pentominoes;
  • My Full Moon Is Square (Pinczes, 2002) for the concept of square numbers;
  • The Lion King (Disney, 1994) for the concept of slope – students can graph the good/ill fate points for a particular character;
  • What’s Your Angle, Pythagoras? (Ellis, 2004) for the Pythagorean Theorem applied to everyday situations;
  • One Grain of Rice (Demi, 1997) for exponential growth;
  • Cinder Edna (Jackson, 1998) for box/scatter plots; and
  • Multiplying Menace: The Revenge of Rumplestiltskin (Calvert, 2006) to review fractions.

“Connecting Children’s Literature to Middle Grades Math” by Candice Brucke in AMLE Magazine, March 2014 (Vol. 1, #7, p. 23-24),; Brucke can be reached at

Reflections on Lent

As a faculty/staff, we are offered reflection books for the season of Lent. These books contain daily reflections, activities and prayers. Although we pray individually, many times I am engaged in conversations in the workroom or lunch room that center around the Lenten message of the day. I guess this is very typical for an educator—sharing information quickly between classes, making the most of every precious second! I would like to share two reflections with you as we begin this season of Lent.
The first is the need for us to seize the opportunity of the season of Lent. The reflection quoted some of the conversation between the characters, Andy and Red from “The Shawshank Redemption.” As Red says, “It comes down to a simple choice, get busy living or get busy dying.” In Lent, we need to be busy living. We look forward to the Resurrection, the ultimate celebration of life!
The second reflection can be found in Luke 9:23, “Take up your cross and follow me.” Our reading for the day suggests that we should not wallow in self-pity, rather grab the opportunity and choose not to give up. God is always there for us to lean on when we need the strength to persevere.

Building School Morale

The February edition of Educational Leadership was centered on building school morale. One of the articles suggested that to know something about school morale, you need to ask the people in the trenches, the faculty. For the second year in a row, Waldron Mercy has conducted a Faculty Culture Profile. A committee of teachers initially volunteered to put questions together to assess the culture of the school and thus get a sense of the overall morale. These questions centered on mission, admissions, administration and leadership, curriculum and instruction, school policy, and professional development and compensation. The questions have remained the same for two years in order to compare data and track effective change. The committee presents the information to me on behalf of the faculty. I share these strengths and areas for improvement with the administration so that we can use this information to set goals for the upcoming year. Positive faculty culture directly affects a positive school climate, and this is why bolstering school morale becomes a school improvement strategy. Our morale is high, but it is important not to take this for granted. Communicating with teachers, clearly defining a vision for the school, empowering teachers who are critical contributors in the process of change and success, and trusting and supporting teachers in their efforts, lead to a positive culture. High morale is contagious. It trickles into student motivation and achievement.

An interesting way to announce a snow day!

I'm wondering if I should announce our snow days like this! Very clever!

Click here to see this funny snow day video that has gone viral!

Happy Catholic Schools Week!

The last week in January traditionally marks Catholic Schools Week. The theme this year is “Catholic Schools:  Communities of Faith, Knowledge, and Service." The most important work of Catholic schools is to form our students in the Catholic faith. We do this formally through religion classes but even more importantly, we do this by living and modeling the gospel values. At Waldron Mercy, we create a faith-filled community and show the students the value they bring to this group. We also want them to see that they are part of a bigger Catholic community that extends beyond WMA to their parishes, within their cities, and in the nation. They contribute to the larger Catholic community when they reach out in service. The value of service has been part of the rich history of the Catholic schools and especially here at Waldron Mercy. Schools use Catholic Schools Week to draw attention to the academic, faith development and service activities that our students are engaged in all year long. We are proud to celebrate Catholic schools week!

The Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Please take the time these next few days to remember Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the impact he has had on current generations. Those same ideals will carry on through future generations.

Click here for a short video from the National Geographic website about Dr. King and his fight for civil rights.

Focus on the Relationships and the Technology will Follow

The November/December 2013 issue of Momentum printed an article by Ronald Fussell, titled “It’s Not About the Technology; It’s About the Relationships." As the magazine is the official journal of The National Catholic Educational Association, the article offered an interesting view on preparing Catholic schools for the future in a world that is so interconnected while keeping the Catholic identity of the institution. It was interesting! As educators we struggle with keeping up with the demands of new technologies—how will we transform them into the learning environment? The author suggested that the best way to navigate through the rapidly evolving technologies was to concentrate on the relationships and not the technologies. After all, isn’t technology helping students make social interactions with the outside world? If we look at the use of technology as a means of extending learning outside of the classroom and as a tool for collaborating, doesn’t it really boil down to the way we build relationships with one another? Since relationship is at the heart of our Catholic identity—loving relationships with God and others—it is our job to prepare students for a future in a way that celebrates that identity. I do believe that our Waldron community is strong and built on positive and nurturing relationships among faculty, students, parents and staff. If we continue to model and teach ways to strengthen relationships with others, then the technology we use to communicate, collaborate, and build 21st century interpersonal skills should mirror the same gospel values that we see in our face-to-face encounters. I appreciate Mr. Fussell’s viewpoint.

The Snow Day!

Well, this was the week that the dreaded four-letter word drifted across every principal’s desk in the tri-state area…S-N-O-W! This delightful term for children seems to be the archenemy of every adult within earshot. Imagine, a snow day, and it is still technically fall! What is a principal to do? So, I reached out to my fellow “partners-in-crime” for advice on how to handle the dreaded snow day, and I was surprised by the feedback. Blog after blog produced “critical steps to ensure a snow day for your school.” Could this be true? Do principals pray for snow days like their students? Who wouldn’t want to spend every day at WMA? So, what I learned from administrators much wiser than me were the four steps to guarantee a snow day. Students, read carefully and take notes because the four secrets of producing a snow day must be completed before your normal bedtime!

  • Step 1 – Put your pajamas on inside out. (It’s even better if your pajamas have feet.)
  • Step 2 – Brush your teeth with the opposite hand. (This is much harder than it sounds.)
  • Step 3 – Flush a minimum of 6 ice cubes down the toilet. (cubes… not crushed ice… another common mistake)
  • Step 4 – Sleep with a spoon under your pillow. (Some say to freeze the spoon first as it represents snow, not really sure, but just do it.)

A word of caution from my “partners-in-crime,” don’t overuse these steps and desire too many days or you will break the magic of the guaranteed snow day. Oh, and these steps must be completed in order.

I’m not sure if these steps are even the slightest bit scientific; however, I do know that the students and faculty and staff enjoyed their first snow day of the school year. As I glance out my office window as I type this blog, I am reminded of God’s splendor. I can’t help but think that an occasional snow day might be His way of telling us to slow down, take a break, and enjoy the beauty of His creation!

Giving Back is Contagious!

As we gather items this week for our Thanksgiving baskets, I am overwhelmed by the generosity of our families! We pride ourselves at Waldron Mercy in instilling a desire to give back to those in need. It seems like every week at community gathering we hear ways in which our students have reached out within their communities. Giving back becomes contagious! Our desire for our students is for them to continue on in high school, college, and their professional lives keeping outreach close to their hearts. Below is an article highlighting one of our Waldron Mercy grads, Madi Resnic ’12, a student at Merion Mercy Academy and sister to Jack ’18. In a recent conversation with Madi’s mom, she talked about how Madi learned the importance of helping others during her years at WMA. And, knowing her parents’ commitment to service, I believe that spirit of giving began at home. In this spirit of generosity and giving, please enjoy this story.


The Significance of November 11 for Me

November 11 has such significance for me, personally. It was the day that my oldest son, Peter was born. He turned 19 this year—hard to believe! It is also the day that Catherine McAuley, foundress of the Sisters of Mercy, died back in 1841. On her deathbed, we recapture one of our favorites sayings of Catherine, “Be sure you have a comfortable cup of tea for them when I am gone.” You have read my story of Mercy. I can’t help but think that it was no coincidence that God had a hand in connecting those two important events for me. I think we can find the presence of God everywhere we look. In the video clip of ABC News Person of the Week (the link is below), I am reminded of the significance of November 11, Veteran’s Day, for many people in this country who are either serving in the military or are connected in some way to those serving our country. Again, we see God’s presence…because we believe that He has a hand in all things.
And a personal shout out to one of my military heroes, Rebekah A. Hewes, a member of my “family.” Beki serves in the Air Force Reserves. She has been deployed to Kuwait, Afghanistan and Iraq several times. Beki cared for my two oldest boys when they were little so that I could return to work at WMA. She is now a mom to a beautiful daughter. I thank God for showing His mercy in returning her safely from each trip to the Middle East. May God bless our military!

Thoughts on a Recent Symposium on How Children Succeed

Last Friday afternoon, at the invitation of one of our parents, I attended the Gesu’s 16th Annual Symposium on Transforming Inner-City Education. The keynote speaker was Paul Tough, author of How Children Succeed. He spoke on the hidden power of character. Mr. Tough’s book explores the research behind the non-cognitive qualities that determine the success of a child which outweigh the traditional cognitive indicator, a high IQ, in predicting the success of a child. Mr. Tough refers to these non-cognitive indicators as grit, resilience, zest, curiosity, and self-discipline, to name a few. These character traits have been shown through research to correlate with positive effects such as better GPA’s, success in college, maintaining healthy relationships, and avoiding drugs and alcohol and getting in trouble with the law. Though, as he indicated, it is just not clear how to cultivate these character traits in young children. There are promising avenues identified. Mr. Tough referred to the “secret weapon” of overcoming highly stressful or traumatic situations in childhood as strong parental nurturance and attentiveness early on in a child’s life. Later in adolescence he feels that in order for children to build character that they need to take risks and manage their failures. That failure can make a child more resilient. He did agree that too much adversity does more harm than good and referenced extremely poor children as an example. Mr. Tough said that the research showed that successful kids had those non-cognitive traits and also had a significant person/people that helped them along the way. So, he was saying that as parents, we should allow our children to experience some failure, but to help them manage it to learn from it and become more resilient.

Mercy Is...

Every morning, over the PA system, we listen to classical music, share announcements and birthdays for the day, and then pray together as a school. This past month, our sixth grade students have been sharing their reflections as part of prayer. Ms. Caitlin Mulroy, our sixth grade Language Arts teacher, assigned a repetition poem to the students. This type of poem has many or all of the lines starting the same way. The topic for this poem was “Mercy is…” The students were to reflect and write on what mercy means to them, how mercy is present in their life, and how they see it impacting our school, other people, and the world.
These poems have made me reflect on our mercy charism and our theme, “Who Will Tell the Story?” One of our most important jobs is to educate our students in the mercy charism. After listening to many of these poems, I am delighted that our students feel a strong presence of mercy and can communicate the impact that it has in their lives. I am hopeful that our story will be told for years to come. Please enjoy Audrey C’s poem.

Mercy is caring.
Something many do not get.
It’s something that’s worth sharing.
Not something to regret.
Mercy is something that is timeless as time itself.
Mercy is like Santa and his tiny, little elf.
Mercy is the center of everything that’s kind.
It’s not only in the heart and soul, but also in the mind.
Love is also something that is required.
Mercy is technically love, but rewired.
Mercy is a great thing that keeps God in our spirit.
We should really listen to the saints and bishops who can hear it.
We try our best to be His children, who are merciful.
But sometimes we will disobey, which makes us small and dull.
Mercy can be something just as simple as “Hello.”
It’s something that makes a brighter day, so make it better as you go.

Learning Beyond the Classroom

Welcome to our garden! If you drop off in car line you may have been watching our garden grow. With the help of some moms and students, we picked kale, rainbow chard, lettuce and bok choy. The Montessori students chopped the vegetables. Some of these delicious veggies were cooked and sent to St. Columba, a "safe haven" for chronically homeless and seriously mentally ill men, an outreach partner of our Waldron Mercy families.  Some of the veggies were enjoyed by our staff. On Tuesday, the first grade science classes worked in the garden with Mrs. Meyer. They planted turnips, radishes and garlic. It was a delight to hear that so many children knew the veggies that they were harvesting and growing. Many of them talked about the delicious ways that their parents prepared these foods. Good, healthy eating starts early. You are providing wonderful opportunities for children to make healthy choices and are encouraging them to try new things.
The garden has been a source of nourishment in many ways. From an academic standpoint, children have been witnessing the complex process of nature first-hand. The students were fascinated by the caterpillars in the garden. They could see them munching through the cabbage. Mrs. Meyer also picked up a cabbage leaf to show the students the caterpillar eggs. Now that’s hands-on science!

A Fresh Perspective on the H Word - Homework

The value of homework has long been debated. I have read many articles on the pros and cons of homework over the years, but I enjoyed the perspective of Larry Sandomir, a middle school teacher at The Calhoun School in New York City in the September 2013 issue of AMLE (Association for Middle Level Education). He believes in giving homework, but he is more concerned with the kind of homework given and the reason why it's given. Mr. Sandomir talks about four ways that homework really matters. It matters if a student deepens his or her understanding of the material. It matters if it teaches a student time management-how do they balance their life activities with his or her studies? It matters if a student learns how to set priorities. And finally, homework matters if what they are doing actually means something to the student. Homework helps students take ownership of and responsibility for their learning. I found his perspective refreshing, a different one from the believers who think homework is repetitious and boring.

Sharing the Mission

If you have been reading my Mercy story in this blog you will recall the name, Sister Marie Bernadette, a Sister of Mercy who was my principal in elementary school. Last week Sister stopped by to visit me at WMA. She is now director of Siloam, a wellness center for people impacted by HIV/AIDS. The center provides a variety of programs and services to help empower people infected or affected by HIV/AIDS to focus on their spirituality for the purpose of wellness. Our faculty and staff visited Siloam a few years ago during one of our retreat days. There was no doubt that we could all sense that this was a place of healing filled with laughter, comfort, and peace-a place that would welcome all. During her visit, Sister Marie Bernadette commented on the welcoming feeling as she walked through the halls of WMA. It was clear that as Mercy-run institutions we both share the same mission. We both welcome a diverse population and create a loving, nurturing environment where people feel welcomed into a community. Sister will be connecting with our seventh and eighth graders in religion classes as we focus on issues of social justice.

She asked me if I could invite our families to participate in the AIDS Walk/Run on Sunday, October 20. Please click here to register and learn how to sponsor a walker/runner or pick up a flyer at WMA’s front desk.  It is a great activity for the family and the funds collected help people and organizations like Siloam have enough money to provide programs for people affected by HIV/AIDS. Click here to learn more about Sister Marie Bernadette and the work she does at Siloam.


My Mercy Story...Part 3

I entered Merion Mercy a rather shy girl who was unsure of herself. I left MMA being touched by so many acts of mercy that I grew into a confident young woman.

I then entered St. Joseph's University and guess what? No Mercy sisters there, but I did understand that it was my job to share the mercy I had been shown to others. One of my favorite and most proud memories in college was my involvement with children and young adults who were mentally challenged. Each year, even to this day, St. Joe's hosts a festival for the mentally challenged. I was in charge of that festival my senior year. Everything that I had learned about outreach—really reaching out to those in need—and everything that I had ever learned about organizational skills was put to the test in planning this event! Our theme that year was “Put a Little Love in Your Heart.” Truly we did that for our guests, but mine was overflowing as well.

Sometimes you have to listen to your heart. After graduation I got a job teaching at another Mercy school, St. Matthias School in Bala Cynwyd. (Do you see a pattern of mercy in my life?) There I met Sr. Eileen Trinity who made me laugh every day. She still continues to do so today. I also met Mr. Bob Fogarty, who took me under his wing and became my mentor teacher. My path led me the following year right here, to WMA. And it was Sister Joellen who interviewed and hired me to teach fourth grade. That was way back in 1990 and I really haven't left! I think of all the sisters who have touched my life and who have helped me write my story of mercy...Sister Patricia who put her trust in my leadership. Sister Christella who has taught me to be a better parent, Sisters Kathleen, Carmel and Joellen, who by their actions, remind me daily of living Catherine McAuley's mission, and Sister Barbara who was my spiritual mentor as I prepared to be a Mercy Associate.

And those are just the sisters who have extended mercy to me. It would take too long to talk about the faculty and staff at WMA that have been chapters in my story of mercy.

I do want to share a lesson that I learned at our faculty retreat at the start of the teacher's school year. Sister Ann Curtis spoke at our retreat, and she said that you do not know mercy unless you have been shown mercy. Think about that a minute. On one hand that seems to make so much sense, but I don't really think I reflected on what that meant until the very moment it passed her lips. I had been given a great gift! I had been shown mercy from the young age of six and have continued to be shown acts of mercy until right here right now. But what about everybody else? It is difficult for me to even imagine that people have not been shown mercy. How can they extend it to others if they don't know what it feels and looks like? And then our theme, “Who Will Tell the Story,” took on so much more meaning for me!

Just being a part of the Waldron Mercy community makes us responsible to answer God's call and show mercy to others in everyone one we meet, everyplace we go. It's showing compassion, trust, community, service, and openness to all, everywhere. As the year progresses we will hear people's stories of mercy, and by our actions, we will write our own stories and even find ourselves in others’ chapters of their books. And the best part about a good story is that you can read it again and again and again, so I invite all of you to live our theme this year!

My Mercy Story...Part 2

I entered Merion Mercy Academy in September of 1981. There I met my best friend, Suzy, who remains my best friend today. We have been together for many of each other’s important milestones in life. I was thrilled that she was able to attend my principal installation last year. It was very meaningful for her to be back in the Motherhouse chapel with me. I was grateful that she could witness my commitment to the mercy mission as carried through in my role as principal of WMA.

Back to fall of 1981… Although new herself to MMA, Suzy extended her hospitality to a rather quiet and not very confident girl--me, but she took me under her wing, included me in every activity, after school function, and weekend fun. Interestingly, she came from another mercy school so I know she learned the importance of community, outreach, and hospitality, too.

I continued to be shown mercy in my classes at MMA. I remember leaving French class in tears practically every day. I never seemed to develop an ear for that language! One day I bumped into the principal, Sister Elizabeth Carroll, who invited me into her office after class. Now, let me tell you that you never wanted to go to the Principal's Office and Sister Elizabeth's presence frightened me! She looked stern, but what I was amazed to learn was her passion for French and her command of the language which she shared with me until I got myself on my feet in French class. Imagine being tutored by the principal! She took time out of her busy day to make sure that I was ok.

One of my favorite classes at MMA was music theory and one of my favorite teachers was Sister Jeannette, who I refer to today as Aunt Jenny. Now, you may not know her to see, but you sure have enjoyed her music. She composed the music and lyrics for the song, “Circle of Mercy,” a song that we often sing. Her joy for music and musical theater became my joy and love for music-a gift that you can pass on wherever you go.

I entered MMA a rather shy girl who was unsure of herself. I left MMA being touched by so many acts of mercy that I grew into a confident young woman.

My Mercy Story...Part 1

Our theme this year is "Mercy:  Who Will Tell the Story." I was asked to do a personal reflection on my story of mercy, and I shared this story with the students at our first Community Gathering

My Mercy story started when I was in first grade. I attended Presentation B.V.M., in Wynnewood. It was a school run by the Sisters of Mercy but smaller than WMA. I had about 22 boys and girls in my classroom, but there was only one of each class. My first grade teacher was Sister Patricia (not our former principal). What I remember most about her was her warmth and kindness. When I was in grade school, I was always very nervous. I remember never wanting to do anything wrong and always wanting to do everything right in my academic classes. I remember Sr. Patricia's hugs. She would simply put her arm around me, and I remember calming down and feeling much better.

My love for music started in elementary school, too. I was encouraged by two Sisters, Sister Cathy and Sister Maria, to learn guitar. I used to play for all of our school liturgies and the guitar mass on the weekends. I played guitar for mass even here at WMA until I was expecting my first child (and Peter will be 19 this year), so you can see that was a long time ago. I continue to sing with our Waldron Mercy liturgy group. Maybe one of these years I will dust off my 12-string guitar and pick it up again.

My principal at Presentation B.V.M. was Sister Marie Bernadette. Today she is in charge of Siloam, which offers a variety of programs and services created to nurture people infected with or affected by HIV/AIDS, located in Philadelphia. I think she did a great job in finding the best traits in each of her students and helping every child to develop them. She was a great leader—fair, a good listener, making decisions for the best of the students. She led by example. She is a good friend of mine today. She encouraged me to apply to Merion Mercy. So off I went...and my mercy story continued and grew stronger...

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